Syria’s Kobani hit by fresh round of Islamic State assaults

ISIS fighters
Islamic State fighters. The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria has dropped from roughly 2,000 a month down to 200 within the past year,

ISIS fighterssis
Fresh clashes shook the Syrian city of Kobani on Sunday as militant group Islamic State fired repeated mortar shells at Kurdish militia following a brace of car bomb attacks.

Islamic State fired at least four mortar shells at Kobani on Sunday morning, adding to more than 40 shells launched in the past few days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group. The Islamists also detonated two car bombs in vehicles the near the center of the city—which lies on the Turkish border—on Saturday afternoon, the monitoring group added.

The U.S. military said Saturday it had conducted 15 airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria over the previous two days, adding that two strikes near Kobani had hindered the fighting positions of the militant group. The U.S.-led coalition also launched three strikes on Sunday morning, according to the observatory.

Although a small border city in northern Syria, Kobani has become a key strategic battleground between Islamic State and Syrian Kurdish militia backed by airstrikes from the U.S. and its allies. The city, and Islamic State’s potential success there against the U.S.-led coalition, is considered symbolic by the militant group and a key recruiting tool for extremists, according to analysts.

On Friday, Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of U.S. Central Command, said the American-led strikes had slowed Islamic State’s advance and its ability to bolster its front lines. The strikes, however, still might not be enough to stave off an all-out capture of Kobani by the militant group, Gen. Austin added.

“We’re no longer seeing them move around the country in large convoys,” Gen. Austin told reporters in the Pentagon in his first news conference since the U.S. started launching airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq in August.

But by Sunday afternoon, it was still unclear whether airstrikes had effectively damaged Islamic State’s ability to continue its assault on Kobani.

Mosques in Raqqa, Islamic State’s home base in Syria, have been appealing in recent days for blood donations as wounded fighters fill hospitals there, Syrian activists said. The casualties have forced the group to recruit new fighters as young as 12 years old, the activists added.